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iTunes for Windows First Impressions & Problems

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This ended up rather long. I broke it up into 3 parts for that reason.

I had no problems installing iTunes on my Windows box. I had only one problem in viewing and listening to music from my Mac iTunes playlists. This has to do with audio books, both bought from iTMS and directly from Audible.com. Audible.com uses a file extension of .aa and iTMS uses a file extension of .m4b. I think that the Windows iTunes has problems with these file extensions. This does not effect me, I do not listen to audio books on my desktop or laptop. Therefor I am not really inclined to look into this issue. Being able to share all my playlists from my Mac is really nice, and did not take any effort at all.

I do however have some gripes about the interface. Additionally Neil has some thoughts.

I am not asked if I want a shortcut on my Desktop, in my Quick Launch Bar, or the QuickTime Player Tray Icon, All of which are installed, and all but the iTunes icon on my Quick Launch Bar were deleted or deactivated. Most well written Windows installers ask you about shortcuts on the Desktop and in the Quick Launch Bar.

Despite Apple’s claim that iTunes is the best application written for Windows, it is far from true, in even the most basic functionality. It would have been nice if they would have used the standard Windows UI standards. Apple harps so loud about using standard UI elements in the creation of OS X software, you would think they would do the same with their own Windows software.

Some People do not like the brushed metal. In OS X this is an easy thing to change if you have Interface Builder (Developer Tools) installed. Windows users will just have to deal with it. I like the brushed metal of iTunes for Windows. I just wish the menu bar and the minimize / maximize / exit buttons would conform to the standard Windows UI.

What in the world is up with the Maximize button? Any other Windows window would zoom to full screen. In iTunes it shrinks to the condensed player window. If you want to make the window larger you have to drag the lower right resize handle, something else that is not standard in Windows.

You can only resize the iTunes Window by grabbing the lower right resize handle (which is a feature of the Mac OS I cannot stand after using Windows for so long). It is a standard Windows UI element that you can resize a window using any of the sides or corners of a window.

Since these are standard Windows UI elements, wouldn’t it be easier to implement then what Apple has done with Windows UI elements in iTunes? On the other hand, the Windows version of iTunes works just like the Mac version. Even the Maximize button, that is what it does in the Mac version.


I notice over at the Apple Discussion Boards that Windows 2000 users are having all sorts of problems with installing iTunes. Thats no fun, I read that Apple is looking into it. But that, IMO, does not mean you should troll the boards with “Apple Sucks” banter. It has already gotten rather congested. People go to those boards for technical help, they do not want to see your anti-Apple rhetoric.

Another issue I see a lot of at the Apple Boards is the fact that iTunes renames and reorganizes mp3 files. Yes, this is in-fact a feature of the product. And if you ask me it is a very nice feature at that.

iTunes relies strongly on ID3 tag information. If that information is not present then i strongly suggest you go to the Advanced tab of the Preferences and turn off “Keep iTunes Music folder organized.” This is pretty much the main reason for the mixed reactions (C|Net). Because Windows users do not know how iTunes works they automatically think the software is bad. There is a saying in tech. support “99% of software problems happen between the chair and the keyboard.” In other words, 99% User Error, 1% Software Error.

If any Windows user had just asked a Mac user, who has been using iTunes for a long time, about iTunes, most Mac users (myself included) would tell you to be carefull of the fact that iTunes can/will reorganize and rename your tunes.

Instead they just bash iTunes on the Discussions Boards.

“Apple said if the default settings are used, iTunes is not supposed to rename or move any music files.” (C|Net)

This is, I think, false. In the Mac version of iTunes this option is on by default. I am pretty sure I had to turn them off when I installed iTunes for Windows as well. I cannot for the life of me figure out how to delete those preferences in Windows (I even tried System Restore) so I cannot say for sure, but I am pretty sure I had to uncheck those two check boxes. (I have my MP3 collection on a external HD and don’t want my Windows install of iTunes messing with the file names or organization of the files, my Mac version of iTunes does that)

My guess is that a lot of Windows users have a lot of MP3’s that do not have proper ID3 tags. This could be because of illegal p2p file sharing, but is not necessarily the case. That or when you ripped your CDs you did not gather information from the CDDB. Whatever the case, not having ID3 tags is going to seriously hamper your iTunes user experience. The Browse function of iTunes relies on correct ID3 tag information. I do not know what others are used to, but wouldn’t you like to automatically browse your collection by Genre, Artist, and Album, then have to manually manage all that information?

For a long time I did not want iTunes to manage my MP3 collection, but this is because I had some incomplete ID3 information in my files. Since getting an iPod though I have iTunes manage my collection as your ID3 tag information needs to be immaculate to use on an iPod.

Unfortunately there is no way to undo the damage done if you have iTunes manage mp3’s with badly formatted ID3 tags.

I did a test though. I checked both options to organize my music folder, and to import into my music Library (which to my knowledge are the default settings). Going to File > Add Folder to Library… and selecting one of my tunes folders, it copies the files to my My Music folder, and does not rename the original files. This is obviously not the scenario most if not all Windows users are taking. This is though, what I believe is the most logical way to import you tunes. So I really don’t get the problems that people are having.

In this experiment iTunes fixed a lot of file name problems because it used the ID3 tag information, it also put track numbers (and full song titles) in the file name. This saves a lot of time. It is a feature folks. But there will always be people that fight it for some reason. You can always turn it off.

As I read on the Apple Discussion Forum, most users think this is a nifty feature once they understand it.

Another misconception is how iTunes manages Soundtracks, or other collections like AM Gold’s Best of the 70’s, for example. Apple users of iTunes think the behavior is normal, because, well, because it is. If Compilation is checked iTunes will put all the files into a folder by album (They show up in a Compilations folder in your iTunes Music Folder. If that is not checked then yes, iTunes will make folders per artist.


I am biased, so my opinion does not really amount to much. The only other jukebox app I liked was SoundJam, and Apple bought them and incorporated some of its features to create iTunes. I think iTunes is a wonderful addition for Windows. It is a lot nicer to use then WinAmp, which I think has been the best choice for a jukebox on Windows. I can look past the non standard Windows UI elements, and I know how iTunes works, so I have no problems with importing and letting iTunes manage my collection. Like I said, I am biased. Mainly because I have used iTunes for years.

What I am noticing is that once Windows users understand how iTunes works, they really start to like iTunes. This is the impression I get from posts at various discussion boards. The anti-Apple trolling needs to stop though, no one wants to read it. If you hate Apple then for crying out loud do not install iTunes and do not ask for help.

Originally posted on Breaking Windows.

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About Ken Edwards

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Good review, Ken and I agree with most of what you’ve written except I take some exception with the Apple-bashing stuff.

    I think it is possible for folks to attribute blame to Apple over treating Windows users like second class citizens with software deployment. As you point out, Apple seems to have the attitude that their UI is better and will ram that down the throat of Windows users whether they are familiar with it or not. Intentional or not? You raise some very valid points here.

    But I don’t know that I’d call this Appple rhetoric so much as fact. They seem to be happy with the club atmosphere and niche software deployment strategy, which leaves me a bit puzzled.

    Personally, I think I would like iTunes on a Mac more than I do on Windows. But my Mac purchase has been pushed down in favor of getting a Tablet PC, I’m afraid.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com/ Ken Edwards

    Thanks 😉

    I don’t know about second class citizens, but i am sure that Apple would like people to be using iTumes on the Mac instead of Windows. That is no secret, but that is still no exuse.

    I don’t know if they are doing it on purpose, the UI elements, but I do wish they would not. For example the scroll bar is “Aqua” and not the standard Windows one that works with any of the XP .msstyle stuff (such as Classic or Luna, the ones built into XP).

    I would rather iTunes on Windows look like a Windows app. Windows is not the Mac, and it should not act like it. I am much more of a Mac user, but I want my Windows software to run like Windows software, plain and simple.

    Oh, BTW, I found a place you can download a QuickTime compenent for OGG files. I hear it is slow, but is an alternative. Of course you could always use a free too to convert to mp3. I don’t see OGG support being native to iTunes unless people provide feedback for it. Save with WMA support.

    http://qtcomponents.sourceforge.net/

  • http://macaronies.blogspot.com Mac Diva

    I believe the complaining Windows iTunes users will eat their words down the road. Despite the cavailing, they are going to want their music libraries organized and they will come to appreciate those accurate ID tags.

    My utterly unofficial poll of Windows iTunes users in real life has not resulted in any complainers. However, several of the friends asked are or have been Mac users in the past, so they are familiar with how Apple designs its software.

  • http://www.psybernet.co.nz Waltzz

    Those ID tags? I want all files to have ID tags. And they already show up in windows if you set your browser to include those categories! Have a look with a right click on the top of the categories with the browser set to Detailed view.

    Makes me realise I had a sort of Itune option all along! But I like the Itune approach to sorting files. Longhorn may yet take all this a step further.

    But in the playlist section in Itune – why cant we create nested folders?

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com/ Ken Edwards

    But in the playlist section in Itune – why cant we create nested folders?

    This is a feature I wish it had as well. submit your thoughts, that is the only way it will get added to the app.

    http://www.apple.com/feedback/itunes.html

  • Guy Reid

    I have just downloaded Itunes for windows adn am having similar problems with the ID3 tag issue, my music collection consists mainly of ripped cd’s which are categorised on my Hard Drive by Genre only, itunes does not seem to recognise this at all and when importing tracks to the library, creates unknown artist, unknown album ect, the result being that I cannot locate any of my files which is a bit of a pain since I use traktor for djing, so come on mac users, is therre any way to rectify this apart from manually creating tags so that the file systems stay in tact

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Guy, what program did you use to rip those CDs that they have no tags other than genre? That seems beyond odd. While I’ve had plenty of problems with incomplete tags from really old rips (Audio Catalyst 1.0 leaps to mind as a source of very little tag info), I can’t think of any tool that actually puts *no* tags in there.

    However, even in your current situation, you can use ‘Browse’ to at least look at tracks separated by genre, which might help.

    And of course you can select an entire album of tracks and change the tags for all of them at once, which should save time.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com/ Ken Edwards

    Yea, i would say it is an issue with the app you used to rip the music in the first place, it must not have gathered the info from the CDDB. if you have the CDs you might as well re rip them in iTunes.

    iTunes relies on the ID3 tag info more than any other program like it, and I have noticed most PC users who use iTunes for the first time are shocked at this. In the end, when your files all have proper ID3 info, you will find that this is very nice feature.

  • kendo

    Hi,

    i used winamp3 for nearly 5 years cause of its low mem waste and nice plug ins.
    i switched to itunes when i was looking for a portable mp3 player (apples ipod). i dont bought an ipod yet (with much luck i get one cheap *thx euro*).
    (i switched off the auto aranging of files from the first moment)

    reason for itunes (imho).
    – very nice handling
    – acc ripping
    – manage larg amounts of mp3 easy (and i mean realy easy!)

    bad things
    – mem waste (damn sometimes i get the bad fealing it’s writen in vb;)
    – some simple usebilty stuff

    hope it help’s… (sorry for bad english)

    kendo

    ..I apologize for the inconvenience this interruption may have caused. Thank you for your patience..

  • Salvatore

    regarding the id3 tags and cd-text:

    these tags are not supported when people burn discs using session-at-once and track-at-once. only in the disc-at-once burning mode with cd-text checked will the songs copy the id3 tag information; unless this has changed recently.

    Also, many ripping programs do not grab the id3 tags or the user does not remember or know that they have to check them.

    Another problem could be the id tag version your cd player uses an older or newer version of idtags and isn’t able to read the current version on the tracks… here is a fix for that…

    http://www.hollowcube.com/talk/archives/000092.php

    anyways, just thought i would put my two cents in…

    good thread
    Sal

  • http://www.abexia.com David Roberts

    I have installed itunes for windows and then uninstalled it twice. Despite the fact it is a great way to download music legally, I just didn’t want to keep it on my computer.

    BTW, I prefer windows, despite having spent about two years using Macs at work before they (sensibly, IMHO) decided to switch to windows boxes.

    The only thing I love about itunes is the great selection of tunes and the easy downloads. I *really* dislike the interface. I agree that a windows app should follow the windows gui. I’ve noticed this problem with other apps that started on the mac, like Illustrator.

    I really disliked the attitude (so typically apple) that if I am allowed to make choices during the install, I’ll just be confused. Especially the fact that it installs several memory wasiting resident processes that I feel are totally unneeded when I’m not actually running itunes. I like programs that don’t consider themselves so important that a part of them has to run all the time, from boot-up to shutdown. Quicktime has the same problem.

    For example, itunes installs an process which looks like it is solely designed to detect a ipod. I don’t have an ipod and will never buy one. Why do I need this on my computer? Why wasn’t it an option? I just want to use itunes to download music and burn CDs of it. That is all.

    About the ID tags. I have many mp3 files that lack ID tags because I ripped them from CDs made by non-famous people whose music I happen to like. I clicked-off the choice to reorganize my files. (Why was this on by default anyway?–is it another assumption by apple that since no program in windows world could be as good as theirs that certainly I would only use itunes use I tried it?)

    I use MoodLogic to organize my music files and generate playlists, and it does a great job without reorganizing or renaming any thing. I have my files arranged by genre the way I like it, and I don’t have to change it.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents worth.

  • http://www.abexia.com David Roberts

    I have installed itunes for windows and then uninstalled it twice. Despite the fact it is a great way to download music legally, I just didn’t want to keep it on my computer.

    BTW, I prefer windows, despite having spent about two years using Macs at work before they (sensibly, IMHO) decided to switch to windows boxes.

    The only thing I love about itunes is the great selection of tunes and the easy downloads. I *really* dislike the interface. I agree that a windows app should follow the windows gui. I’ve noticed this problem with other apps that started on the mac, like Illustrator.

    I really disliked the attitude (so typically apple) that if I am allowed to make choices during the install, I’ll just be confused. Especially the fact that it installs several memory wasiting resident processes that I feel are totally unneeded when I’m not actually running itunes. I like programs that don’t consider themselves so important that a part of them has to run all the time, from boot-up to shutdown. Quicktime has the same problem.

    For example, itunes installs an process which looks like it is solely designed to detect a ipod. I don’t have an ipod and will never buy one. Why do I need this on my computer? Why wasn’t it an option? I just want to use itunes to download music and burn CDs of it. That is all.

    About the ID tags. I have many mp3 files that lack ID tags because I ripped them from CDs made by non-famous people whose music I happen to like. I clicked-off the choice to reorganize my files. (Why was this on by default anyway?–is it another assumption by apple that since no program in windows world could be as good as theirs that certainly I would only use itunes use I tried it?)

    I use MoodLogic to organize my music files and generate playlists, and it does a great job without reorganizing or renaming any thing. I have my files arranged by genre the way I like it, and I don’t have to change it.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents worth.

  • Mark

    I have about 1500 MP3’s that have correct ID3 tags, but itunes refuses to recognise them when i add them to the library… any fixes anyone knows of?
    The other 2500ish files imported correctly… I can’t see any difference in the tags…

    any thoughts?
    M

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Ken Edwards

    Mark – I would suggest going to the iPodlounge.com forums and posting your problem there. That or the Apple discussions forums at discussions.info.apple.com.

  • http://hi Serkan

    hi I m serkan tez I want to download a song called “bad bad man” by john cena can you help me?